Various artists with BBC Singers, CBeebies Prom Children’s Choir and Chineke! Orchestra conducted by Kwamé Ryan
Reviewed by: Brian Barford
Reviewed: 22 July, 2019
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London
The CBeebies joined in the Proms celebrations of the fiftieth-anniversary of the first manned mission to land on the Moon with their own trip to it, including a brief diversion to the Clangers Planet (also fifty). There was much audience involvement in the panto spirit. Multiple screens, projections, lighting effects and roving spots were used to make the experience as immersive as possible. Archival footage of the Moon Landing was strangely touching. The massed ranks of the CBeebies Proms Choir and the BBC Singers were green-clad to striking effect and a rather handsome rocket achieved a strictly limited lift-off from the Arena.
Six presenters familiar to their young audience all worked hard. Justin Fletcher is a natural comic performer and was particularly impressive when he donned a spacesuit whilst YolanDa Brown can also play a mean saxophone. Space flight was powered by music and the Chineke! Orchestra and Kwamé Ryan provided vivid accompaniment. Some things worked better than others. ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ from Handel’s Solomon got things off to a bustling start but Jessie Montgomery’s Starbust – a short piece for strings from 2012 – left some audience members restless. Aaron Copland‘s Fanfare for the Common Man always works well in this sort of context and the brass and were notably impressive. Short Ride on a Fast Machine by John Adams (receiving its third Proms performance within twenty-four hours) worked particularly well in an arrangement. The CBeebies Choir and the BBC Singers provided the ‘Humming Chorus’ from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly with most of the audience slowly swaying.
The new composition was Earth by Hans Zimmer, which invites us to imagine how the Earth appears as seen from the Moon. Zimmer typically integrates the choir, orchestra and electronic sounds in a smooth, soulful manner that will be familiar to anyone who has heard most of his film scores. I found it bloodless but you can see it having a further life beyond this event. The accompanying video introducing the intrepid Go Jetters was fun.
The pieces were linked by a medley of CBeebies favourites with a recurring melody, Off to the Moon, that was modified by different lyrics as the journey to the Moon progressed. I particularly enjoyed the theme for Waffle the Wonder Dog.
The BBC Ten Pieces Project aims to introduce young people aged seven to fourteen to classical music through films, lesson plans and live events. This Prom was stimulating, sometimes uplifting and hugely enjoyable. At the close Ryan and Chineke! Orchestra swung into a rip-roaring version of the Fugue from Britten’s Purcell-inspired Variations, better-known as Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, a perfect introduction to the world of concert-going.
- This was the second presentation of Prom 3 (also reviewed on Classical Source), which had been broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)
- BBC Proms www.bbc.co.uk/proms